Aldershot's Royal Pavilion used to be Queen Victoria's stand for reviewing Britain's imperial army. Now it's a good spot to see the latest Californian thinking on office design
Maybe it's a sign of the times. When Queen Victoria used to review the British Army at its home in Aldershot, she stayed in the Royal Pavilion. At her jubilee in 1887, 60,000 soldiers trooped past. That pavilion burned down 60 years ago, and the wooded hilltop, landscaped by Capability Brown, has just become the European headquarters of the Computer Sciences Corporation, a Californian computer services provider.

CSC began planning the headquarters in 1999. After taking over a number of its British rivals, it had 8000 employees scattered over 11 offices across the South-east.

It wanted to consolidate 1800 of them in a new home, and invited five architects to enter a limited competition for a £42m headquarters.

The brief had two main requirements. First, CSC wanted to be able to rent of bits of the building in case it needed to shed employees. Second, it wanted to change the culture of the firm: managers were to be encouraged to work for the common good instead of building up their own empires.

The winning architect, RTKL, met the first aim by designing a four-fingered structure with four-storey towers rising from a crescent-shaped podium built into the hillside. Each tower has its own reception, and can be let if it becomes surplus to requirements.

The second requirement was tackled by grouping photocopiers, faxes and coffee machines together to form "specific points of contact". The idea was to maximise chance encounters between employees doing routine tasks.

But the main focus of community spirit is a large open space on the ground floor, where workers from all four towers get together. The flexible meeting rooms enable colleagues to plug in their laptops and collaborate on projects.

And once the meetings are over, they can move on to the real heart of the building: the communal restaurant and coffee bar.